Tuesday, 19 January 2021

The UK should not sign trade deals with countries committing genocide.

The Government are refusing to accept cross-party amendments to the Trade Bill that would put human rights at the heart of our trade policy.

The UK and the world can’t just stand by and do nothing.

This is particularly important because of what is happening to the Uyghur people in Xinjiang and across China. The Foreign Secretary last week described the mounting evidence to the Commons:

Internment camps, arbitrary detention, political re-education, forced labour, torture and forced sterilisation—all on an industrial scale.

And yet he refused to call it genocide. As I told Autumn Conference in September, and following Alistair Carmichael as the first MP to raise the plight of the Uyghurs, it is increasingly clear that that is exactly what this is.

The UK and the world can’t just stand by and do nothing. The products of Uyghur slave labour can be found across our supply chains and yet instead of firm, bold action this government seems content to tweak around the edges.

As Liberal Democrats we won’t stand by and let this happen.

We are working with MPs from across the political spectrum to do the right thing and allow the UK to withdraw or revoke bilateral trade agreements if the High Court makes a preliminary determination finding that the other country has committed or is committing genocide (it only occurs to genocides that are ongoing or may occur in the future, not past atrocities).

We vote on this today, and there is a sizeable rebellion on the Tory benches.

As Liberal Democrats we won’t stand by and let this happen.

We will run the Government close, and we may even win.

We need to do this not because we don’t believe in the international rules-based order (we do, passionately, more than ever) but because it isn’t working as intended at the moment when it comes to genocide and China.

The Chinese government, by virtue of its position, regularly blocks routes to such a determination through the international courts, so this is a necessary step if the UK is going to lead by example and give effect to its international law obligations relating to genocide, rather than become complicit.

Never again can we wring our hands in horror after the fact, saying we should have done more.

Never again. Words we say every Holocaust Remembrance Day. Words we must now live by.

We simply can’t allow our country to end up on the wrong side of history.

Our party has always led the way on upholding human rights

By working together, even with those who may not agree with us on other matters, we can stand together and make a difference.

I urge my colleagues in all parties to vote with their conscience, with British values and to support these amendments today.

We are backed by the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Muslim Council of Britain and the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute.

There are other steps we can take – such as Magnitsky sanctions, a publicly-available watchlist of companies that refuse to clean up their supply chains, a total ban on these products full stop, or human rights labelling on products in our shops – but amending this legislation would have a really significant impact.

In fact it would be world-leading. I’m proud we are there fighting for it on the front line.

Our party has always led the way on upholding human rights. From opposing South African apartheid, to Bosnia-Herzegovina, to enshrining 0.7% aid spending in law, we have a proud history and today is no different.

We won’t tolerate genocide and nor should the Government.

So today Lib Dem MPs will stand together with colleagues from across the Commons in sending a clear message. We won’t tolerate genocide and nor should the Government.

So write to your MP and ask for them to support our cross-party efforts.

Let’s not just say ‘never again’. To quote Burke:

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."


Follow this link for more info: http://www.libdems.org.uk/trade-deal-2021